Notsi: a new era for Lesotho’s soccer

MASERU – The appointment of Leslie Notši as national football team coach last week could herald a fresh beginning for Lesotho’s football.
Notši’s appointment was confirmed by the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) last week.
Lefa president Salemane Phafane had however already personally declared Notši’s appointment way back in March.
Notši has done his reputation no harm over the past two years, classily guiding the Under-20 side to the Caf African Youth Championship earlier this year for what was only the second time in the country’s history.
Although the style of football the team played wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea it was successful and was the country’s best achievement in recent years.
The Makoanyane XI also showed organisation and discipline on the field and off it that hasn’t been associated with Lesotho for a long time.
However, now comes the biggest test, lifting Likuena from the doldrums it finds itself in right now.
There are many challenges to overcome. The team itself has not played a match since October 2009 at the Cosafa Senior Challenge.
Likuena’s last win in a competitive international match came way back in March 2007, a 3-1 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier win over Niger at Setsoto Stadium.
Lesotho’s record over the past five years stands at seven wins and 17 losses in 30 games and that record coupled with an almost two-year exile sees Likuena ranked a lowly 178th in the world.
That ranking is why Lesotho will be in the pot for the first round of 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifying matches with 23 of the lowest ranked countries on the African continent.
The qualifiers are projected to start between November 11 and 15.
Lesotho’s opponents in the draw are likely to come from one of Mozambique, Togo, DRC, Liberia, Tanzania, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Burundi and Guinea-Bissau and will play the first leg at home.
Lefa has said the Makoanyane XI will form the core of the senior team, but they will not be the whole team and in truth can’t be.
It is also unclear whether Lehlohonolo Seema, who still officially remains the captain of the team, will be available for selection.
Whether people like it or not, Seema is the most successful footballer Lesotho has ever produced and his experience and professionalism is critical in this next phase of the national team, at least for the next two years.
However, Seema has been plagued by injuries over the past 18 months.
Seema, Tunisia-based Bokang Mothoana and Bushy Moletsane who is plying his trade in Botswana are the key to the national team.
There are other fine players in the local Vodacom Premier League too who also deserve a look in.
However, international football and World Cup qualifying is a whole different ball game, and expecting the Under-20 players to immediately step in and compete with seasoned national players is fanciful at best.
Another major issue is to decide on the style and the approach of the Likuena team.
Some have called for a style of football that identifies with the national characteristics of football in Lesotho.
While that is desirable in the long-term as Notši often pointed out during his tenure as Makoanyane XI coach, international football has changed.
It requires tactical discipline and with that Notši’s Under-20 side became one of the best in Africa.
There also has to be a resolution or realisation of what the targets for Likuena are.
Lesotho is not Spain, there is no way the country can expect to return to the international fold after two years and start winning straight away, so there has to be patience for results.
Ultimately Notši has to be given time.
His technical team’s process has to be given time, patience and full commitment from the country at large.
The objective really is not to find Likuena disbanded again five years down the line because another new team is being built.

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